Recalled toys, counterfeits and other safety hazards of the holiday season

Online buying makes it easier for recalled items or counterfeit, unsafe toys to still end up in the hands of children, experts warn.

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A stuffed animal that had been recalled because it contained hazardous chemicals was displayed Tuesday at a news conference held at Lurie Children’s Hospital to remind parents to be on the lookout for recalled items while shopping this year. Experts recommended several websites that inform parents of recalled items.

This stuffed animal was recalled this year because it contained hazardous chemicals but was purchased online in October, the director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group said Tuesday.

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

With the holiday shopping season approaching, experts are warning parents to be on the lookout for toys that have been recalled due to safety concerns but can still be found for sale online.

The best way to learn about recalled products is by visiting saferproducts.gov, a website run by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It allows parents to check whether a toy has been recalled.

Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a Chicago-based consumer advocacy group, said Tuesday that parents are busy and a lot of times companies are bad about getting the word out about recalled products.

“Parents don’t always get the message,” Cowles said at a news conference at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “Consumers need to hear about recalls from a variety of platforms.”

The organization’s website — kidsindanger.org — is another resource parents can use to learn about recalled children’s toys and other children’s products.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who also attended the news conference, pointed parents to a Safe Shopping Guide compiled for the 2022 holiday season that’s available on his office’s website and highlights nearly 100 recalls of toys, furniture and children’s clothing.

“While many of these products have been recalled, they can often be found in resale shops or online,” Raoul said.

Officials agreed toys in general have gotten safer, but they warned that parents should be aware of toys and other products that are steeply discounted knockoffs or counterfeits. Such toys probably were not manufactured to meet strict U.S. safety standards.

“It’s not just a difference in price, it’s a difference in the safety of the product as well,” Cowles said.

Abe Scarr, director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group, said parents can also review the group’s recently released 37th annual toy safety report.

“Part of the report shows how our researchers went online in October and looked for 16 toys that were recalled this year and were able to purchase 11 of them and have them delivered to their homes,” said Scarr, who displayed several recalled products on a table at Tuesday’s news conference.

One was a stuffed animal duck that had been recalled because it contained hazardous chemicals.

Dr. Elizabeth Powell called on parents to be cautious of toys with tiny magnets or small batteries. Children can ingest those objects, creating bowel obstructions that are hard to diagnose because they often present symptoms that mirror those of a common virus.

Even expensive toys can be unsafe, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said.

“Cost is not the only indicator. We have found with hazardous products that they can be the most popular and even most expensive,” Schakowsky said. ”Parents have to be vigilant regardless of the cost.”

Powell suggested providing kids with safe items that are already around the house.

“Kids will play with wood spoons and aluminum pans,” she said. “There are lots of safe things around people’s homes kids can play with. While I don’t want to sound completely reactionary and old-fashioned ... building blocks, which are kind of timeless, are pretty safe.”

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